First came goal-line technology, and we saw that it was good. Then came the Video Assistant Referee (albeit not yet in the Prem) and we saw that it was... oh, about as controversial as you’d expect it to be. Now television’s remorseless drive into the fabric of football has taken another step.
An exclusive report from The Times reveals that the Football Association will permit coaches to view video in the dugout during a match for the purpose of player welfare and tactical planning. (Why this is a Times exclusive and isn’t actually on the FA’s website yet is something only the muddled greybeards who run the game in England can answer, and chances are none of us would understand their explanation even if they gave one.)
Here’s the language of the new rule:
‘The use of any form of electronic communication by team officials is permitted where it directly relates to player welfare or safety or for tactical/coaching reasons but only small, mobile, handheld equipment (eg microphone, headphone, earphone, earpiece, mobile phone/smartphone, smartwatch, tablet, laptop) may be used.
’A team official who uses unauthorised equipment or who behaves in an inappropriate manner as a result of the use of electronic or communication equipment will be dismissed from the technical area.’
What’s an inappropriate use of video? Showing it to a player who’s on the pitch (it would slow the game down) or to any member of the refereeing crew (nobody likes being confronted with their mistakes).
What is permitted? Video being sent to the dugout laptop/tablet/smartphone from an assistant somewhere in the ground. Showing said video to other coaches and to incoming subs. Presumably, providing instant coaching to players subbed off, although that probably won’t happen the way it does in sports with unlimited substitutions. Additionally, the coaches can receive data on their devices.
The content of the video and the data is entirely up to each team. It could be key plays, it could be team tendencies in certain situations, it could be to confirm an injury, it could be pivotal statistics in real time. It’s up to them.
Whether or not there could be a live video feed of the game in each dugout is unknown right now. Maybe the FA will get around to clarifying that whenever they get around to announcing this new rule.
Purists will no doubt be offended by little screens lighting up dugouts across the land. Realists will say it’s used in other sports already (NFL, for example) and that's been probably happening on the sly anyway. In 2016 Turkey coach Fatih Terim even got a scolding after Harry Kane scored an offside goal and Terim showed the replay to the fourth official on his cellphone.